Friday, 13 July 2007

Day 7 review - The result I wanted on derby day!

The support crew and I were up at 06:20 today. We just about managed to get a bowl of rice crispies before setting off to pick up Steven Moore, the mackem challenger, for today's 26.2 mile race through the Cairngorms.

Steven and I managed to get underway at 08:30 and it was quite clear from the off that he meant business. He was running for the pride of his club after all. Also, he has managed to raise £1500 sponsorship for St Benedict's Hospice as a result of running against me today.

He set off at a very quick pace and I just let him go. I would have liked to get to the first checkpoint at 9 miles and get that first "goal" but I knew that the one at 18 miles and at 26.2 miles were a more realistic possibility. My thinking here was that I was willing to take a risk that he would fade later on and I knew from yesterday's finish that I was able to produce a bit of pace when needed. And when I say pace I mean as much pace as someone who has just ran 160 miles can muster.

As I expected Steven got to the first checkpoint at 9 miles to claim the first goal. I arrived minutes later and we had the first banana break of the day as it stood Sunderland 1-0 Newcastle.

We set off again just south of Kingussie and I knew that I had to get to the next checkpoint first. We both maintained a decent pace for the next few miles and at mile 16 I took my chance to break away. I expected a reply from Steven but he didn't seem to have it in him. I put in a 10 minute mile before being attacked by a dog. I probably shouldn't admit to this, but I was ready to kick that dog's head clean off. I just decided to shout and swear at it instead as it tried to bite me. Oh and it was a little Yorkshire Terrier by the way! I should have told you that it was a bull terrier or something. That hampered my progress a bit but I had a big enough lead to get to the 18 mile point before Steven an make it Sunderland 1 - 1 Newcastle.

Steven seemed very tired at the 18 mile banana break and it looked as if my early gamble might just pay off. I had to take a few painkillers along with the bananas as 2 new blisters had formed on my feet and were causing me a lot of discomfort. In the back of my mind, I wondered if he was lulling me into a false sense of security. By my calculations and looking at the state of Steven, all I had to do for the next 8.2 miles was to keep the pace at less than 12 minutes per mile and have a flat out finish.

We set off again and I ran with Steven for a mile just to make sure he was ok. He was showing visible signs of tiredness and exhaustion and derby honours aside I felt that safety should play a part in the day somewhere. He said he was ok and after I put a few upbeat Elvis tracks on the iPod I was away again. I should mention that before this week, I've hardly listened to Elvis' music. But the King of Rock and Roll has really helped me along over the last couple of days.

Meanwhile, miles 19 and 20 were done at a 12 minute mile pace. Miles 20, 21 and 22 were 11 minute miles. I turned around every now and again to check where Steven was. He was getting further and further away as the miles went past.

It looked like victory was assured at the 24 mile point but just like Keegan's Newcastle, I continued to attack and put in two 10 minute miles and then a 9 minute mile to finish off.

I reached the finish at the 26.2 mile point on the A9 before Steven and more importantly made it Sunderland 1 - 2 Newcastle in our "virtual" local derby match. He arrived minutes later and the poor lad looked exhausted. I'd destroyed him with some devastatingly quick miles toward the end. I'd defended when I needed to and I'd hit him with some blistering attacks when I needed to. Or at least those were the kind of Evening Chronicle type headlines I was writing in my mind. Am I taking this too seriously?

Derby honours, bragging rights and local pride aside, what young Steven has achieved today is quite remarkable. Firstly, he has raised £1500 sponsorship for today's event in his own right. It's not included in my total by the way and he will be making his own cheque presentation to the Hospice in September. He has taken a few days off work to travel up here to keep me company for a day. All at his own expense. And if you take a look at the elevation profile you'll see that he has chosen one of the most difficult days on the 36 day tour. Today's run was just one long relentless climb through the Cairngorm National Park to a summit of over 1500 ft. Throw into the mix that this is his first marathon. Also add the fact that he signed up to this event in April and has had only a few months to train.

You'll begin to understand just how difficult a challenge this was for him. But in my opinion he rose to that challenge and has exceeded all the expectations of his peers.

We dropped him off at Pitlochry railway station with less than an hour to spare before his train departed for the North East. I understand he had to get a "wash" of sorts in the ladies toilets. I pity the poor bugger who had to sit next to him on the train for 4 hours. I've since had news that he has made it home and didn't wake up in Peterborough as I'd hoped! He now has a day at York Races to look forward to tomorrow. He'll enjoy the first pint I'm sure. Thanks for all your hard work Steven and I'm sure you'll get a thank you from St Benedict's Hospice in due course for the impressive amount you've raised.

While I'm on the subject of thank you's I'd like to take time out to thank Niall and Biffa again over at Their support and backing has made a difficult first 7 days of running a whole lot easier. As has the support of the hundreds of readers who have made a pledge. Your support is really appreciated and I will get round to thanking everyone who has left an email address at when I finish this tour.

I was gobsmacked when I tuned in to tonight. "Derby victory for birthday boy" was the headline. Quite far up the page too. That has really made my birthday something special today along with a nice meal tonight with Katy and Jack (my wife and 4 year old son (aka the support crew)). Their 1st stint of support finishes tomorrow and it will be quite difficult to see them return to the North East. They have made a sterling effort this week and for the most part have been stuck in the car waiting for me between banana stops. They have managed to get to quite a few play parks in Scotland though which Jack has enjoyed immensely.

So that just about wraps up the first week. If the next four weeks are as successful as this one then I'm sure to finish the 868 mile trip.

I reckon that I'm about 3 miles behind the overall scheduled mileage. There are a combination of factors that have led to this 3 mile shortfall. Firstly, there is a discrepancy in Microsoft Autoroute and Both have a section of the A9 that simply does not exist. I had to make a short detour as a result on day 2. Secondly, some of the planned finish points have been at an unsafe or awkward pick up point. So I've stopped at the best point just short of the planned distance.

With all that said, I've exceeded the required 24 mile average every single day so far. So in those terms I'm about 16 miles ahead of schedule. I'll be trying to claw back the lost 3 miles over the next week though. I need as much contingency as I can get. I'll probably get arrested when I'm dressed up as Borat in the lime green bikini!

Next week is another big week with over 26 miles planned most days. After next Sunday, the average daily mileage goes down to between 22 and 24 miles. That will be luxury compared to the first 2 weeks.

This is Mark Allison signing off from the Geordie run B&B in Inverness. May next week bring more of the same as this week and may I continue to stay injury free. Lastly, thanks again to the Toon Army for their amazing support!